Cobar wins share of mine royalties

TEN years is how long Cobar Shire Council mayor and deputy chair of the Association of Mining Related Councils Lilliane Brady has been fighting the state government to introduce a Royalties for Regions scheme.

So it came as no surprise that when Cobar was named among the seven councils eligible for $160 million in Resources for Regions grants over the next four years, it was seen as a win for one of the state's most revered local government identities.

In a landmark decision, the NSW Nationals leader and Regional Infrastructure Minister Andrew Stoner formally recognised the state's need for a "broader approach" to communities directly and indirectly impacted by mining.

"That is why we are the first government in NSW to establish a Resources for Regions program, which will boost funding for local infrastructure by up to $160 million over four years," Mr Stoner said.

The decision will pave the way for councils, like Cobar, to grab a greater share of the infrastructure pie - a sweet deal according to the government - but "a starting point" as far as Cr Brady is concerned.

"It's a win, I wont deny that, but ultimately this is just a starting point," Cr Brady said.

The Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) is still pushing to broaden the scope of scheme so that 30 per cent of the royalties collected from mining in NSW goes directly back to the councils impacted by their presence, rural and remote councils, and a portion back to metropolitan councils.

In a report published last year, the AMRC estimated the government would collect more than $8.5 billion in mining royalties out of the state over the next four years and that a proposal guaranteeing $100 million annual return to local government was, at a minimum, adequate to help those councils most effected maintain services like roads and community facilities.

"Admittedly, what the government's offered falls well short of the [association's] expectations," Cr Brady said.

"Historically, Cobar alone contributes around $18 million a year to the government through mining. But with the likes of Hera and Wonawinta coming on, our contribution stands to increase to between $25 and $30 million dollars."

While the government is yet to release its funding criteria, it is understood road projects will be among the top the priorities for the council.

With a road network spanning more than 4000 kilometres in the Cobar Shire - and a widening budget deficit requiring serious reining in - the news of funding could not come at a better time for the council.

Council general manager Gary Woodman said council roads, which were among the lowest funded in the state, would join a list of services tipped to include facilities such as the Memorial Swimming Pool and Lilliane Brady Village as part of its submission for resources funding in the coming financial year.

Expressions of interest are due by April 2, and council is expected to hold several workshops in the coming few weeks to finalise its submission.

Despite the timeliness of the government's announcement, Mr Woodman assured it is not a quick fix to the council's financial problems.

"The gap is so large that it's only still going to be a drop in the ocean," he said.

It is a view shared by the mayor as well.

"It provides us some light, but we're far from being at the end of the tunnel," Cr Brady said.

Lilliane Brady has been fighting to introduce a Royalties for Regions scheme.

Lilliane Brady has been fighting to introduce a Royalties for Regions scheme.


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